Q & A with Jean Zeng

Jean Zeng is country manager of Bata China, and has been with Bata for 22 years. Bata World News recently spoke to her about her current role, and opportunities and developments in the region.

What is a typical day like for you at work? What do you spend most of your time on?

My daily work in the office includes reviewing results, discussing progress against targets, meeting with division managers, and making decisions on any issues that arise. I spend time on my key responsibilities: setting goals, setting up structure, translating strategy into results and building a platform upon which each team member can maximize their potential and perform their best.

How have you been developing the business in China?

In terms of strategy, we have been developing the “branded business” in the China market. Our priorities are building up a highly capable and dedicated team, developing a focused product range with clear positioning and great value, along with strong execution. Our management focus is on the efficiency of the operation and profitability of the business.

What projects are you currently working on?

Products, products, products! We strongly believe that what convinces consumers to pay is great products: those products that are tied into brand positioning and that satisfy target market needs.

On the sales side, we are currently putting a lot of effort into the e-commerce project. We foresee it becoming one of the key revenue generators in Bata’s business development in China. Price used to be the key driver in online shopping, now things are changing. On top of strong brands and products, the winning factors are all about a responsive supply chain, consumer integration and efficient IT and logistics support.

Are there any products or trends that are particularly important in China?

The fashion trend is moving toward more casual and sporty. Consumers are looking for brands with strong personality and products with great value.

What initiatives are you most excited about for the future?

Bata’s global branding direction and projects are exciting, and we believe these will lead the company toward the success of “global factors with local execution.”

For the China market, we are focusing very much on communicating with our customers via new media instead of traditional marketing tools. The young generation has higher self-esteem, enjoys attention and loves “virtual social life.” We have to be where they are and speak in their language.

How important are initiatives like e-commerce the Bata Club in the region?

E-commerce is one of the key channels nobody can afford to lose nowadays. Instead of taking it as a replacement for the traditional retail channel, e-commerce is more an extension of retail stores, an unlimited opportunity to demonstrate the brand/products, to communicate with consumers and to generate sales at the same time.

With more choices in the retail environment, attracting and building up consumer loyalty becomes much more important than ever before. The Bata Club has to be done in a new way which the young generation enjoys, with the support of new technology.

How has the retail sector changed in China?

The retail sector is going through dramatic changes, especially the footwear industry. The traditional key retail channel in department stores is losing power to draw traffic. Multichannel retail capability is becoming necessary for all brands. Also, e-commerce gives the opportunity to more players in the market, especially small local companies and niche brands.

And more importantly, our consumers are changing. Price isn’t necessarily the core driver, a strong brand with a clear identity and consumer experience are what the young generation is looking for.

What challenges do you face in your work, and how do you overcome them?

The biggest challenge is the fierce competition in the market. Local companies react faster to the demands and operate with more flexibility. We have to set our goals and develop the business on our strengths: a strong and efficient team, the power of our brands and consistency in providing great products, while always being focused. Impress consumers and they will appreciate and respond.

Which of the Bata Core Values would you say best describes your management style?

I would go for “Count on Me” and “Be Bold.” This does not only apply to the management, everyone on the team is encouraged to take ownership of the work and be accountable to the result. We encourage entrepreneurship, to go after our dream and realize it.

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